A film that appears more episodic than cohesive, The Square is an indulgent and uncomfortable piece of work from a filmmaker who’s clearly enjoying himself as he dissects human behaviour and the pretension of modern art.
Excited to present his latest art installation to the public – the titular Square – chief curator at a prestigious museum in Sweden, Christian (Claes Bang), is finding the build-up to this particular unveiling is sailing less-smoothly than he would appreciate; a well-intentioned viral video attempt is botched beyond repair, his wallet and phone are both lifted from him in an elaborate pick-pocketing, and his one night stand with journalist Anne (Elizabeth Moss) extends well beyond its grace period to the point that her sanity is seriously questioned.
Expressing no rush in solving Christian’s woes, writer/director Ruben Ostlund clearly finds the joy in torturing his lead by constantly subjecting him to humiliation. Additionally though, there’s various other loose plot points that keep The Square’s taxing 140 minute running time intriguing enough to want to stay with it, even when you feel like giving up on it entirely; guaranteed the one moment that is likely to stay with viewers is that of a hired performance artist (Terry Notary, who has a vast work of motion capture performances to his name) mimicking the actions of an ape during a gala event, only to start assaulting guests in a sequence that shrewdly highlights the ignorance of humanity.
Too lengthy a film to be considered a successful execution but still humorous and horrific enough to earn notes on its biting commentary on society, The Square is a strange slice of fiction that’ll unwind itself differently for each individual viewer. There are moments of brilliance housed within the monotony of its bizarre structure that’ll prove enticing to some more than others, but there’s an ambition to Ostlund’s farcical feature that’s difficult to deny regardless of one’s reaction.
Review Score: THREE STARS (OUT OF FIVE)
The Square is in limited release now.